Today marks the six-month anniversary of the country going into alert level 4 lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19. March 26 marked the beginning of a change for all facets of society. Leah Tebbutt talks to different corners of our community about how lockdown affected them and what has changed since.
A decline in influenza and pneumonia this winter season is something Mount Medical general practitioner Tony Farrell attests to the Covid-19 lockdown.
"I think without those initial respiratory infections because of social distancing, people don't progress to a secondary bacterial viral pneumonia.
"People are probably taking better care of themselves, they're probably having a bit of vitamin C and zinc and they're washing their hands and they are not going out. And they're resting a bit more because you can't be as active when you can go to things."
But those weren't the only changes Farrell had seen.
During the lockdown, the Mount Medical team had been conducting virtual consults and Farrell said he was surprised clients hadn't continued when restrictions eased.
"We actually found that clients seem to want more face to face in general. The type of relationship that it is, but also communication over virtual mediums isn't the same.
"But the positive is for those clients who really struggle with parking or transport can have a phone consult."
The labour-intensive PPE requirements had been "onerous", Farrell said, and because of Covid requirements had made work seem busier.
"But overall I've really appreciated the clients that have been very concerned for our wellbeing and potential exposure.
"We've got a good team environment going, it was a weird feeling at the start of Covid. But the team's pulled through really well including reception who are right in the firing line."
The Covid-19 pandemic was a good learning opportunity for the Bay of Plenty District Health Board, said Covid-19 response senior executive Simon Everitt.
It meant pandemic planning processes, and the infection control procedures and processes were rigorously implemented.
"We have also had the opportunity to upgrade some of our respiratory equipment and ensure other infrastructure, such as our oxygen supplies, were well placed to support a pandemic response."
Everitt said the hospital teams, after two rounds of Covid-19 alert level restrictions, now had well-tuned systems and processes in place to go up and down the alert levels.
"It was certainly a smoother transition the second time around as we had the experience from the first lockdown period."
A downside of the lockdown felt by all DHB's across the country was a backlog of surgeries that could not be completed due to restrictions.
As a result, clinical teams have been giving priority to patients presenting with the highest clinical need.
"The responsibilities for delivering care to our communities did not, and do not, disappear because of Covid-19 and I'm particularly proud of the way in which all our staff have risen to this particular challenge."
This included seeing urgent and acute cases and providing ongoing cancer treatment services, as well as the full suite of hospital services the board provides to the community every day.
When reflecting on the turbulent year so far, Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley described it as stressful in many different ways.
"Some businesses are stressful to survive, others are stressful as they are inundated with work.
"Others are stressful because their customers are stressed. Staff are stressed because their friends or family may be going through difficult times."
Many people were still working from home which continued to impact the CBD, but benefit suburban cafes and shopping centres, he said.
But one thing that has changed and won't be disappearing are virtual meetings as they allowed businesses and staff to achieve more as they avoid traffic and travelling to other cities.
But it was a double edge sword, Cowley explained.
"Staff culture has changed very quickly. They need to emerge from survival mood to a new sense of normal.
"Some people are missing the sense of togetherness while more business is done virtually."
Cowley believed managers needed to foster the sense of team remotely as flexi-work options were here to stay.
"This requires greater leadership from team leaders and managers to proactively reach out to staff who they see less of in the office.
"A lot of people are exhausted after a challenging year."
In saying this, Cowley had found many businesses were trusting their staff more, resulting in empowered staff managing their own time and wellbeing.
"Staff may take a long walk at lunch or time out to visit a specialist, but they work from home that night to make up for it.
Otumoetai College principal Russell Gordon said the number of students passing NCEA would be significantly affected by what he called "a hell of a year" and what he hoped "no other cohort would ever have to go through again".
He said the Year 13 students had been "the most vulnerable" with university requirements looming and some were struggling with things like anxiety as the year came to a close.
Pass rates nationwide were tracking to be about 20 per cent lower, but the school was trying to do "anything and everything" to help with this, he said.
On the bright side, the staff had gained "three months of professional development" in terms of remote learning in just six weeks.
"It provided another dimension of learning that we can call upon. It was a real silver lining."
He said they planned to adopt a plan for students to bring their own devices to school in 2021 to help with remote learning when needed.
This would open up a number of opportunities and allow students "ownership" of their learning, he said.
Police had to adjust a lot of its day-to-day business to ensure staff and the community were safe from Covid-19, Rotorua police area commander Inspector Phil Taikato said.
"Some of our work groups were re-purposed to ensure a consistent and effective approach was applied and our people were used in the best way possible to meet changing requirements.
"Our organisation's ability to adapt really stood out, especially in this period of uncertainty.
"We saw the community step up and work together to support Rotorua, with some fantastic initiatives, especially from iwi, such as the Te Arawa Covid-19 hub. This meant we could subsequently leverage off all these groups to help the city through the crises."
Taikato said the police's role in supporting the community through Covid-19 had continued past the initial response and evolved according to changing needs.
"Our people have been involved in helping with the managed isolation facilities in Rotorua.
"We have maintained and strengthened our established relationships with iwi, the council and other government and NGO groups.
"Some of our operational processes adopted during lockdown have remained due to their effective relevancy such as the inclusion of iwi at the operational level for the managed isolation facilities.
Taikato predicted partnerships with local and central government, iwi and non-governmental organisations would continue to strengthen moving forward
"There will also be improved communications with stakeholder groups that will lead to iwi and the community being part of the decision-making processes in crises management."
In the home
Every family in New Zealand was affected differently by the nationwide March lockdown.
For Bay of Plenty's Robertson family, lockdown meant pancake and French toast breakfasts, family walks around the neighbourhood, baking and homeschooling.
Mum Kylie said prior to going into lockdown, she had no idea a country could do that kind of thing.
"It all happened really fast, nobody was really prepared for it.
"Lockdown certainly had its stresses but we were fortunate that my husband retained his full pay throughout the whole time so for us it was nice to have a little break from the normal day to day.
"The mornings were our favourite part of the day. Our eldest son got into cooking so we were having French toast or pancakes every day.
"My husband was the one who started going for walks. I was still anxious about going out but after a few days I was so sick of looking at the same four walls that we all walked around the neighbourhood counting the teddy bears."
She said the best thing to come out of lockdown was the time her husband was able to spend with their children.
"My boys were able to spend time with their dad, we could do things together as a family, even if it was just a walk to count the teddies.
"You don't really realise what you have in front of you in regards to family until this kind of thing happens."
Robertson said when the country moved down alert levels, her family were conscious of extending their bubbles as many of their extended family and friends were among the most vulnerable.
"A lot of the people we relied on, interacted with, had underlying medical conditions so we had to and still have to be really careful.
"Since lockdown, we've tried to keep up with the hand sanitising and social distancing. Our youngest is absolutely thriving being back at daycare.
"This is the new norm for now so we are just going with the flow and trying to keep on with life as normal.
"I guess what we took from lockdown is learning to appreciate our freedom. There are still precautions people need to take but when you look at other countries I count our lucky stars we are in New Zealand because it could be so much worse."